Give Your French Onion Soup Some Flair With Red Wine

Bowl of French onion soup
Bowl of French onion soup - zi3000/Shutterstock

If you love a belly-warming meal covered in gobs of melted cheese, then you're probably a fan of French onion soup. While traditional French onion soup is made with slowly caramelized onions, water, hunks of bread, and a thick layer of melted cheese, the flavor of this luscious soup can be upgraded in more ways than one. Traditional recipes suggest white wine for deglazing purposes: Wine cooks down and releases sautéed food particles before remaining ingredients are added. However, if you're in the mood for a deeper flavor profile, opt for red wine instead.

Food cooked with white versus red wine has a few obvious differences. White wine is lighter, crisper, and provides just enough depth to give your chosen fare a heightened taste. Red wine, on the other hand, is heartier and more robust. Red wine adds richness and complexity to French onion soup, especially when cooked down with onions into a concentrated liquid. This simple ingredient swap transforms standard French onion soup into a more savory, full-bodied meal. While red wine won't change the concentrated flavor of this traditional onion-based soup, notes of it will give your next bowl a richer taste.

Read more: French Cooking Tricks You Need In Your Life

Use Dry Red Wine To Upgrade French Onion Soup

Red wine grapes being worked in a barrel
Red wine grapes being worked in a barrel - Morsa Images/Getty Images

Since French onion soup is typically made with drier white varieties like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio, choose a red wine with a comparable bite such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or Merlot. Whether you're making vegetarian French onion soup or a recipe with beef broth, you only need ½ to 1 full cup of wine per 8 cups of water or broth.

While substituting red wine for white wine may not seem outwardly impactful, consider how both varieties are made to appreciate their inherent differences fully. White wine is mostly made with white grape flesh and fermented in stainless steel vessels with limited oxygen flow. This allows white wines to hold onto their floral, fruit-centric flavors. On the other hand, red wines are typically fermented in oak barrels and include all the fruit: the inner flesh, skin, and seeds. There is also a better flow of oxygen which ultimately leads to a more developed taste.

Red wine also contains tannins from grapes which are chemical compounds found in the skin and seeds of fruit and the barrels used for aging. These particular compounds give red wines a signifying texture and drier aftertaste. Compared to white wines, red varieties have a noticeable difference in body and consistency. The smoother quality of red wine makes for one distinguishable French onion soup.

Consider All Ingredients When Making Red Wine-Infused French Onion Soup

Onion soup with toasted bread
Onion soup with toasted bread - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

If you're used to making stove-top or crock-pot French onion soup, then you may be adding a bit of Brandy to your resulting pot as a viable finishing touch. However, is this extra spirit necessary when using red wine? Whether or not you add a splash of brandy to your French onion soup comes down to personal taste preferences regarding your finished dish.

Brandy is a fruity liquor with a considerably high alcohol content and sweet flavor. You may not want to add this sweeter extra if you choose red wine for its dry, developed taste. Alternatively, some French onion soup recipes call for wine, sherry, and brandy. Again, the latter two ingredients have a sweeter flavor so par down on these if you desire a more savory tasting dish.

When opting for dry red wine in your next pot of soup, consider certain cheeses that pair well with red varieties. While standard Gruyère pairs nicely with pinot noir, try combining a saltier cheese like Parmesan or Grana Padano with it. Or go with Comté or cheddar to enhance the savoriness of your more robust soup.

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